The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, announced the top awardees of its first-ever EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ Faith-Based hosted by the Eastern States region. The first-place grant of $50,000 was awarded to Pastor Cynthia Wallace of Bible Center Church in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for their work aimed at addressing food access and insecurity through innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit.
“This American Heart Association grant will help us to work with urban farmers in our community to develop their business models. We want them to be able to have thriving businesses that not only support them with income but also will provide produce to our community,” said Pastor Cynthia Wallace. “Our community is not waiting for others to come in and do this work for us. We are going to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty and address food access issues.”
According to Pastor Wallace, Bible Center has been in Homewood since 1956 and has been working to address issues related to education, employment, and entrepreneurship for decades. In 2016, the Center started a farm and fishery to provide fresh produce to the community. In 2020, they worked to collaborate with four other urban farms to host a weekend farm stand.
“We know that what people put in their bodies impacts how they think, how they feel and how they act. We also know that all of the health problems that we see in our community — high blood pressure, elevated levels of cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease — can absolutely be impacted by better diet if people had access to things like fresh foods and vegetables,” said Pastor Wallace.
In addition to the farm and fishery, Bible Center operates other social ventures: a coffee shop, a transportation company, a property maintenance and management company, and a community kitchen. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bible Center was able to mobilize their social ventures to help distribute more than 200,000 meals to families in their community.
Faith-based organizations and places of worship have played an important role during the COVID-19 crisis in our country, and will continue to play an important role for many years to come. These organizations and their volunteers and staff have been on the frontline, mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and providing communities with much needed guidance and support.
“It has been an honor to participate in the EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator Faith-Based because there is a lack of access to capital in under-served communities, a lack of access to capital in minority communities and the faith-based arena,” said Arian Simone, Best-selling author and Co-Founder of The Fearless Fund, who served as one of the Business Accelerator judges. “The gap that the American Heart Association is closing with the work they are doing is so necessary. As a woman of faith, I am empowered and encouraged by all of the entrepreneurs who presented during this event. It has been an honor to serve in the capacity of judge.”
The second-place grant of $30,000 was awarded to Pastor Barbara Palmer from Kingdom Kare, Inc. in Odenton, Maryland for her work to empower teenage mothers through childhood education, mentoring, parenting and family support.
A third-place grant of $20,000 was awarded to Dr. Abraham Shanklin of The Center of Transformation in Hanover, Maryland for his work addressing inequities in access and fighting the stigma of mental health in the African American community.
A fan favorite award of $5,000 went to Pastor John Udo-Okon from the Word of Life International in New York, New York.
To learn more about the EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ Faith-Based and to watch the event finale www.empoweredtoserve.org/faithbased.